It could be worse. I could be compulsively stocking up on Spam in preparation for a doomsday sharknado. I could be saving every food delivery menu slipped under my door in case they become collectibles. Although, come to think of it, a bit of that off-the-deep-end hoarding could be a great way to get on television. After all, both TLC and A&E have shows profiling hoarders. Then again, A&E also has a show where they reveal how valuable all that old junk you’ve been saving is, so they’re kind of peddling mixed messages.

I’ve always loved books. I love the feel of the paper in my hand, the smell of the binding glue, even the emphatically crisp sound of a page turning. I’m partial to paperbacks, because my hands are too tiny for most hardback books and reading them tends to give me thumb cramps. But that didn’t stop me from accepting an unwieldy hardback copy of 1Q84 from a friend, even though I knew I couldn’t carry it around with me or lift it for more than half an hour without needing a break for stretching (and maybe some gatorade). People who suggest I purchase an e-reader are met with an icy stare that pierces their very souls.

The wall of books awaiting me at home in Maryland
The wall of books awaiting me at home in Maryland


The problem isn’t really the collecting of the books, it’s the moving with the books. Not only do I have plenty of books that I’ve read and want to keep, but I have stacks and stacks of books I’m planning to read but haven’t had the time (or the bicep strength) to get to yet. There’s an amazing charity organization in Beijing that routinely hosts book fairs featuring ¥10 paperbacks, and I routinely take full advantage of this. The upside is that I always have something new to read when I finish a book, but the downside is that I’m moving from China to the US in two weeks and there are still so many books I’ve yet to read.

"Bimbos of the Death Sun" is a modern classic
“Bimbos of the Death Sun” is a modern classic

In addition to collecting books to read, I also collect books to, well, collect them. In particular I adore mid-20th century sci-fi and pulp fiction paperbacks because of the camp plots and amazing cover art. I’ve been known to purchase multiple copies of the same book because of the different cover art on different print editions. To be fair, I also read these books (though some of them very carefully lest they fall apart) so it’s not a completely superficial hobby. But this means I have to consider the merits of keeping this copy of Survival 2000 I picked up for ¥5, versus the added space and weight cost of including it in my shipment home.

"The future is now. Tomorrow is only a nightmare away."
“The future is now. Tomorrow is only a nightmare away.”

Ultimately, I had to set myself a sorting deadline. Friends are coming over later this afternoon to rifle through my books and I must decide which to hold on to and which to let go. I very easily tossed aside 4 huge bags of clothing, but trying to reduce my book load by even a handful is proving to be rather heartbreaking. So, be gentle with me, good people of Beijing. Be patient when I rip a book out of your hand while screaming, “Wait, no! Not that one! Any book but that one!” and then 5 minutes later tearfully slide it back to you. I’m not crazy, I’ve just got a bit of separation anxiety.

Posted by:Natalie

Writer. Internet Wrangler. Media Relations by day. Marketing for ATB Publishing by night. Big fan of zombies, cupcakes and candid photography. 我爱北京

4 replies on “Confessions of a book hoarder

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